Friday, Feb 03, 2023

The Other Amma

As Jayalalithaa aide Sasikala leaves jail, she needs a new home and party.

Indian cricket, Brisbane win, India test win, Indian seris win, WTC, Ind vs aus test match, australia test tour, World test championship, Indian express newsThese observations make a break from past judgments in which the highest court has upheld that the arts represent a realm of thought that must be protected from overzealous cultural police (on the film Padmaavat, and the Malayalam novel Meesha).

Nearly four years ago, ahead of surrendering before a Bengaluru court that had convicted her on corruption charges, V K Sasikala was seen at the burial site of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and AIADMK leader, J Jayalalithaa, on Marina beach. She circumambulated the site, thumped thrice at the grave. Her supporters claimed that the three thumps meant three vows, that she “will overcome hurdle(s), treachery and (the) plotting (against me)”. Much has happened since. On Wednesday, Sasikala was released from jail in Bengaluru. But she is out of both her home and party — the Poes Garden house, where she lived with Jayalalithaa, is now government property, and Edappadi Palanisamy, the confidant she backed as Tamil Nadu CM, has said that there is no place for her in the AIADMK.

Stranger things have happened in Sasikala’s life. She was running a parlour that rented out video cassettes in Chennai in the 1980s when she befriended Jayalalithaa, then a rising star in the AIADMK. As Jayalalithaa consolidated her hold over the party and became chief minister, Sasikala moved in with her to run the Poes Garden household. For party cadres, Sasikala became chinnamma (junior mother), second only to Amma, whose orders were next only to that of Jayalalithaa. There were emotional interludes that saw Sasikala exit Poes Garden only to return.

When the law caught up with her, Sasikala was alone — Jayalalithaa was dead by then. Jail has been a lonely affair for Sasikala though nephew TTV Dinakaran has kept alive the rump of a party that claims the legacy of Jayalalithaa. Her old aides are now foes. No director has been in charge of Sasikala’s script, even she does not know the next twist in the plot. That could make her a person to watch out for, in an election year in Tamil Nadu.

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First published on: 28-01-2021 at 00:52 IST
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